Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the High-Level Plenary Meeting to Commemorate and Promote the International Day against Nuclear Tests, in New York today:
Thank you for coming together to commemorate the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
As you know the International Day is officially set for 29 August – marking the closing, in 1991, of the nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, the largest in the former Soviet Union. More than 450 tests took place there, with impacts still being felt decades later. The purpose of the Day is twofold – first, to pay tribute to the victims of nuclear tests and second, to raise awareness of the continued threat that such tests pose to the environment and international security.
All told, over 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out over the last seven decades, unleashing a terrible toll. Nuclear tests devastated pristine environments and local populations around the world. Peoples from regions as diverse as the South Pacific, North America and North Africa have equally suffered from poisoned groundwater, radioactive fallout and other side effects to health and living conditions.
This Day is a reminder of our moral obligation to ensure a legally-binding prohibition on nuclear weapons. At the same time, we also acknowledge significant progress in banning nuclear tests. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, or CTBT, is one of the most widely supported multilateral treaties, with 184 State signatures and 168 ratifications. Its verification mechanism – the International Monitoring System – has helped facilitate international peace and security.
Yet despite this progress, the Treaty has not yet entered into force. Eight of the 44 States whose ratification is necessary for the Treaty to enter into force have not yet ratified it. I want to use this opportunity to once again call upon all States to sign and ratify the CTBT without further delay, and for those remaining eight States to do so with a sense of urgency.
In the twenty-first century, nuclear testing is simply not acceptable. It is not acceptable to destroy and contaminate the environment. It is not acceptable for local populations to suffer from radioactive fallout and other nuclear by-products. And it is not acceptable to prevent the entry into force of the CTBT and, thereby, withhold a valuable restraint on the qualitative and quantitative proliferation of nuclear weapons and a practical step towards their total elimination.
Let us together make the most of this occasion to renew our commitment to outlaw all nuclear tests, for all time in all places. I thank you and count on your continued support towards achieving this vital goal.